How to Calm Your Inner Critic and Engage Your Inner Sage! | By Delaney Tosh CPCC, PCC

How to Calm Your Inner Critic

What We Tell Ourselves Matters!

Research by psychologist Zach Estes demonstrates that those who tell themselves they're not going to perform well, don't. In his study they didn't perform as well as the control group, nor did they perform as well the people who thought they would do 'fine'. However, when the same people who told themselves they wouldn't perform well were told to, "just try and you likely could solve the study's test", they performed just as well as the other groups in the study.

This tells us that when we do take action, even if we initially lack confidence or self-belief, we can usually perform at least as well as anyone else. And it also tells us that our Inner Critic has a measurable negative impact on how we perform.

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Confidence!

The more we ruminate, worry and listen to our Inner Critic, the more these thoughts become automatic. Choices and behaviours become influenced and limited by these thoughts.

Soon our brains become wired only to play negative automatic thoughts (NATs). And this is especially true when faced with something beyond our comfort zone.

Neuroscience research is finding that to change your capacity to act, learn and grow, you only have to change your thoughts; you can rewire your brain for confidence.

How to Rewire a Brain

We know that when clients aim for stretch goals or life changes, the necessary leap outside their comfort zone often triggers their inner alarm system. This can cause their Inner Critic to become loud and very persuasive.

The job of the Inner Critic is preserving the status quo, and it stems from our survival instinct. But while the goal of the critic is to keep us safe, the reality is that it limits our growth and the achievement of meaningful goals. And sometimes we become so accustomed to hearing our Inner Critic that we mistake it for the voice of better judgment.

How to Identify the Inner Critic versus the Inner Sage:

  1. The energy of the Inner Critic is fear and it feels contracted, limited and heavy. This voice can be berating and mean, or it can be persuasive, but only in terms of maintaining the status quo.
  2. The Inner Sage voice has the energy of expansiveness and lightness. It feels grounded. It points to opportunities, trust and possibility.

When working towards challenging goals, we need to begin by identifying the type of thoughts our client is having; is it their Inner Critic or Inner Sage talking? Then we help them choose more supportive thoughts.

Here is a seven step process coaches can use to help a client grant more power to their Inner Sage, and rewire their brains towards action and confidence.

7 Step Process to Rewire Your Brain for Confidence & Focus on the Inner Sage:

Step 1: Initial Inquiry

Start by exploring the energy and impact of the Inner Critic and build a willingness with your client to engage in a different energy.

  • What is your felt sense when your Inner Critic voice grows loud?
  • Do you like the energy of this negative voice?
  • How does it have you hesitate?
  • What is your Inner Critic not allowing you to do in your life?
  • What is the impact?
  • What is available to you if you recognize your Inner Critic is just one of several voices or perspectives?
  • Do you want to explore working from a less punishing energy?

Step 2: Notice the Voice of the Inner Critic and Name it

Next, help your client become conscious of when their Inner Critic is doing the talking, and take note of the undermining way it communicates with them.

One effective way to defuse the critic is to personify it:

  • What or who does your Inner Critic sound like?
  • Give it a descriptor, such as perfectionistic or cranky.
  • If your Inner Critic were a character from a novel or movie, who would it be?

What if your client thinks their critic is just their 'true voice' being highly analytical? It's important to help the client acknowledge their critic is not their only voice. Their critic may just be the loudest. Let your client know there are other parts of themselves that are much more supportive.

The purpose of this step is to externalize the critic's voice and help the client see their Inner Critic is not them.

Step 3: Build Awareness

Next, help your clients take note of the situations in which their critical voice becomes louder:

  • When does your Inner Critic like to speak up?
  • What does it tell you?
  • What is it having you believe?
  • How do you react?
  • How do you want to be at choice with this and what it's telling you?

Step 4: Acknowledge It

What if we were to acknowledge our Inner Critics with compassion instead of self-judgment? Our Inner Critic is just trying to keep us safe - the problem is that it's doing it in a really extreme or sneaky way that no longer serves us. This can actually hinder us in expanding into our best self.

So we need to acknowledge our Inner Critic - notice it, name it and then ask questions like:

  • What does my Inner Critic not like about this situation?
  • Then, with compassion ask, "What part of me wants to be in charge here?" and "What part of me wants to embrace this opportunity?"
  • Clients can also thank their Inner Critic for ensuring they 'look both ways before you cross the street!'

Step 5: If Necessary, Remove it

If your client finds disconnecting from their Inner Critic difficult, they could try removing it from the scene.

  • Ask your client to imagine them sending their critic packing, visualize it moving house or heading off on vacation!

Step 6: Replace it with the Inner Sage!

When we grant power to our Inner Sage we grant power to our capacity to be inspired with a greater sense of ease. This is a much more motivating and exciting space from which to take action and direct our life. Ask your clients:

  • What is the voice of your compassionate and inspiring self?
  • What are your Inner Sage's inspiring, supportive messages?
  • What does tapping into your Inner Sage feel like?
  • What's possible when you choose to listen to your Inner Sage?

Step 7: Following up and Celebrating

When your client is challenging the critic and pushing out of their comfort zone, following up with them is especially important. This is an opportunity to strengthen the rewiring process and focus clients on their Inner Sage.

So, it's important to review what they've learned, especially if the client feels like there was a failure. Drawing on the coaching competency of "Celebration" can further strengthen the rewiring towards increasing confidence. Sometimes clients shrug this off, but it's important not to let them, especially when they've taken an action outside their comfort zone.

Even if the client feels less than successful, simply celebrating the learning is an act of self-compassion, which helps strengthen their inner reserves while quieting the Inner Critic.


When our clients reduce the power of the Inner Critic and grant power to their Inner Sage, they have the ability to see their possibilities, their goodness and their capacity.

When things don't go according to plan, the Inner Sage gives clients the ability to see a situation, failure or fear through the lens of compassion. This means they're better able to explore the learning and the opportunities it presents them.

And this compassionate stance from the Inner Sage fuels a motivation to take on new and challenging actions and goals, not from the energy of fear, but from a sense of grounded understanding, creativity and excitement.

If you liked this article with on inner critics and boosting confidence with your clients, you may also like:

Delaney Tosh Headshot

Contributing Author:

Delaney Tosh, CPCC, PCC, coaches women who want to radiate with confidence and thrive as leaders. She helps her clients navigate the hurdles unique to women in leadership and also delivers the Resilience at Work® Toolkit and Resilience at Work® Leader Scale, helping leaders and teams create optimal performance through resilience. She is co-creator of the Phoenix-Hearted Woman retreats and webinars, designed to help women build resilience and strengthen their foundation for being heard and making a difference in the world. Connect with Delaney at SquarePeg Leadership or on LinkedIn.

Learn more about Delaney & see all their articles here >>

Image of Client's Inner Critic, Shouting at Themselves by BlueSkyImage via Shutterstock


  1. Olivia

    I am always amazed at what comes before me just when I need it. Thank you for this post on a day I am in need of shutting up my inner critic!

    • Emma-Louise

      Dear Olivia, thank-you for your comment! And so glad you found this article helpful. Delaney Tosh is a wonderful contributor - her articles are always extremely helpful and informative! Warmly, Emma-Louise

  2. Davison Nzembe

    The material is so real and helping especially on coaching. That is great work
    Thank you very much, I like it


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.